Tuesday, 07 December 2010 15:00

Cyber Safety Help Button aims to help keep Aussies safe online


A program from the Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy makes it easier for children - or anyone else, for that matter - to seek help when they feel threatened online.

The Cyber Safety Help Button software from the Federal Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy puts a red button onto computer screens to report inappropriate activities to web site operators or to chat online with a counsellor. It can be downloaded here.

At the launch of the Button (not to be confused with its announcement back in June), Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, said "Young people are constantly accessing the cyber world either at home or at school for education, entertainment or to socialise. The Cyber Safety Help Button provides a one stop shop for our children if they ever feel uncomfortable online and for parents and teachers that is very reassuring."

Senator Conroy explained that "the Help Button was designed by young people as part of the work of the Youth Advisory Group on Cyber Safety" and that members of the group have been testing it since June.

When the application is running large red button floats above other windows. Double-clicking it opens a web page advising "If you are in danger call '000' or tell an adult you trust." Other choices are "talk", "report" and "learn".

'talk' provides a link to Kids Helpline, a phone and online counselling service operated by the Boystown charity.

What about 'report' and 'learn'? See page 2.

'report' offers links to abuse reporting pages for popular sites including Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and YouTube, and to the government-operated ACMA and Scamwatch sites. There is also an indirect link to the Australian Federal Police's online form for reporting inappropriate behaviour towards a young person.

'learn' presents links to the Government's ACMA, CyberSmart and Stay Smart Online sites.

The application is built on Adobe's AIR platform. That should make it compatible with computers running Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, but only the first two are supported at this stage. According to DBCDE officials, "We hope to make the button available to people using other systems in the future."

According to the Minister, planned enhancements include support for mobile devices and links to additional resources.

Not everyone is a fan of AIR, and parents who wish to avoid installing Adobe's software could simply create a link to www.dbcde.gov.au/online_safety_and_security/help-and-advice and put it in the Mac OS X Dock. With a custom icon it would be almost as effective.

Windows 7 has made it harder to pin web shortcuts directly onto the task bar, but it seems it is possible with a little jiggery pokery. If you know how, feel free to post instructions in a comment.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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